Mining idea, or how to write well (part 1)

Mining idea, or how to write well (part 1)
Taken from JP; Sunday, July 01, 2007 Have you ever had something to write — perhaps a school report, a business proposal, or even just a simple letter for those back home?

So you set aside some time, cleared a space at your desk, put on some “writing music”, hunched forward over your pad and wrote … nothing … nil … naught?

Your brows huddled together, tangled with vacant thought. Your knuckles, a row of whitening little helmets of surrender, tightened around your pencil.

Tick, tock, the paper’s vacant nonchalance taunted you, dared you to put something down. But you didn’t — you couldn’t. You had nothing to say: Blankness there and nothing else.

Of course you have experienced this: We all have.

Writing is just about the most frightening of all the language skills.

With the exception of public speaking — itself a trauma so great that the majority of us fear it even more than we do the reaper’s grim embrace — the action of facing a blank pressed sheet of lined pulp armed with merely a No. 2 is something most try to put off as long as possible.

We either forget or are not aware that this dread of filling the empty page is something all writers experience — even the most accomplished.

I once read that James Joyce, perhaps the most celebrated novelist of the 20th Century, lamented after a friend caught him anguishing at his writing desk that he had not been able to pen more than seven words that day.

His friend, attempting to lift the author’s spirits said, “Seven? But … that’s good, at least for you!”

“Yes,” Joyce replied. “I suppose it is. but I don’t know what order they go in!”

And this from a literary god whose most distinguished work’s final chapter consists of a single sentence that runs on for nearly 50 pages.

When it comes to writing, what chance do us mere mortals stand?

While you may never become the next Joyce, Dr Seuss, or J.K. Rowling, you can become a strong and effective writer who enjoys the challenge and thrill of creating something out of nothing.

One of the early keys to this growth is learning the prewriting techniques.

These techniques generate ideas. The ability to create these first thoughts is vital since the act of actually getting started is often the toughest part of writing.

The initial ideas germinated by these techniques will liven your writing with energy, honesty and creativity.

First thoughts are powerful. Most of our lives are spent in a world made up of messages that have been prettied-up by our internal censors.

This is why it is so refreshing to meet someone who truly speaks his mind, a real straight-shooter. The prewriting techniques will teach you how to capture your thoughts at first spark before they have been altered.

First thoughts are egoless. Uncensored, they are your most honest (no matter how nutty that may in fact be), and therefore extremely potent.

An honest voice is the door through which strong writing walks. Writing that lacks an honest voice is timid and flaccid.

First thoughts breed creativity. The power and honesty created by the prewriting techniques will give you the freedom to be wrong, to be creative and to essentially write without fear.

While in this zone pieces seem to write themselves. By learning these techniques, you too can bathe in writing’s autopilot sweet-spot.

Next week you will learn what the prewriting techniques are, and discover how easy it is to master them and add them to your language-skill arsenal.

Good writing! Andrew Greene is director of Academic Colleges Group English Jakarta (ACG). If you have any questions about English language courses or in-company training you can contact him at or 780-5636. His personal blog can be found at

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